Team: Richard Childress Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 22nd, 122 points out of 13th place.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Four top-10 finishes in 12 starts including a second in the 2006 event.
LOOKING AHEAD: Burton said, "Chicagoland is a fun and challenging race track. While it may look like a normal 1.5-mile layout, it is different in many ways. Both ends of the track are completely opposite as far as handling goes. Chicagoland also requires really good grip and there are some bumps that you have to factor in with the setup."
LOOKING BACK: Burton was running fifth when he pitted on lap 339. But four laps later, the caution flag waved to put an end to Burton's hopes of contending for the win. "That's the story of our season," said Burton, who ended up 18th. "We had a top-five effort taken away from us with back luck in the form of the untimely caution (that put Burton two laps down to leader Kurt Busch, who had not pitted). "I am so proud of the 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet team. They are giving me great cars. We just need some racing luck."
ETC.: Even though Burton had a contract to drive the 31 car in 2014, he announced last week that he would be leaving the team at the end of the season. Burton said he had already told car owner Richard Childress that he wanted to cut back on his schedule in 2015. Childress then told Burton that he did not full funding for the 31 team for next year. After much discussion, Burton felt the best thing for RCR was to leave so Childress could bring in a driver with the needed sponsorship. That driver will be Ryan Newman, who was announced as the new driver of the 31 team for 2014 and beyond on Monday. "They are going to have sponsorship in place that can move the ball forward," said Burton. "That's good for RCR. That's not necessarily the best thing for me in the world, but I'll figure it out. I don't know what I'm going to do next year. I'm just going to have a good time the next 11 (now 10) weeks, just go race my ass off and see what happens."
14 MARK MARTIN, Chevrolet
Team: Stewart-Haas Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: The team stands 14th in the car owner point standings.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: One win and five top-10 finishes in 12 starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Martin said, "I look forward to Chicagoland because I feel I continue to get comfortable in my environment with the 14 Mobile 1/Bass Pro Shops team and I feel like we're starting to hit a stride where we can start getting some good results. It's starting to feel like home to me. And I like mile-and-a-halves. They're really my favorite race tracks."
LOOKING BACK: Martin finished ninth for his first top-10 finish since being named the interim driver while Tony Stewart recovers from his broken right leg. But Martin needs a well-timed caution flag with 57 laps to go to move into the top 10 as he was one of 11 drivers who had not pitted when the yellow flag waved. And even though he was third for the final restart with three laps to go, Martin struggled with an ill-handling car as he faded to ninth. "We'll take that and build on it," said Martin.
ETC: Martin expects to do some testing for SHR next year as well as work with Danica Patrick to try and speed up the communication lines between her and crew chief Tony Gibson. "Danica doesn't need a driving coach," said Martin. "She already knows how to drive." Martin said he will work as a go-between with Patrick and Gibson. The idea is to help explain to Gibson how Patrick's car is reacting so he can make the proper adjustments.
11 DENNY HAMLIN, Toyota
Team: Joe Gibbs Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: 26th, 265 points out of 13th place.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Two top-10 finishes in seven starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Hamlin said, "Hopefully we can find a little bit of speed in our cars for the last 10 races. And we want to try and help our teammates (Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch) win the Chase. That is our main goal for the rest of the year. If we can find some things that will help my teammates."
LOOKING BACK: An ill-timed caution flag and a "tight" race car resulted in a 21st-place finish for Hamlin at Richmond. Hamlin made his scheduled stop with only 60 laps to go, but a caution flag two laps proved quite costly as the leader Kurt Busch had yet to pit. As a result, Hamlin fell two laps off the pace. He was never able to recover. "It was another tough night for our FedEx team," said Hamlin. "We just never got the balance right in the car after getting back in dirty air, and got unlucky with our pit strategy."
ETC.: Hamlin is in the midst of the worse run of his career. In the last 12 races, he has not finished better than 18th. And most of his finishes during this horrible stretch have been 30th or worse. "I have never had a run like this," said Hamlin. "We have nothing go right for us. We are a much better team than this. We are used to winning races."
55 BRIAN VICKERS, Toyota
Team: Michael Waltrip Racing
WHERE HE STANDS: The team stands 22nd in the car owner point standings after the 50-point penalty handed down by NASCAR on Monday.
CHICAGOLAND RECORD: Three top-10 finishes in six starts.
LOOKING AHEAD: Vickers said he really "likes going to Chicago. That has been a good track for me, both in Cup and Nationwide. We hope to have a good weekend in both cars. It sure would be nice to get another win before the end of the season."